“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
-Martin Luther King Jr, April 16, 1963
Martin Luther King Jr, the great black fighter for civil rights, wrote these words from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. His crime? Protesting against segregation after a judge had outlawed all, "parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing” in response to a campaign against desegregation in the city. Being thrown in jail for speaking out against racism and for equal rights might be something most people in Canada consider impossible today, but by promoting a climate of fear and racism, and then using this as the pretext for new laws and legislation, the Canadian conservative government is moving towards just that.
The newest attempt is though Bill C-51, which has already been submitted to Parliament. Titled the, “Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act”, the bill gives hugely expanded powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other government agencies, including lowering the threshold of proof for arrest, new allowances for knowingly violating legal rights, increased secrecy of court proceedings and expanding arbitrary “no fly lists.”
To accept the government narrative that this is only to combat the “violent jihadism” which is “at war” with Canada would be a huge mistake. This has been targeted against us too and will affect us all.
“I find it a little convenient that in the past few years that these radicalized people are the biggest threat to ever hit us. There are more people dying because of drunk drivers or because of gang violence.” - Former CSIS officer Francois Lavigne
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 the Canadian government has waged an increasing war both at home and abroad. They have consciously tried to promote both racism and Islamophobia, which they use to justify their continued squandering of lives and money during their participation in wars such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali. It has also served as a convenient justification for rolling back hard won civil liberties here in Canada, starting with the targeting of Muslim communities.
To document all of the instances of abuse would take an entire article, actually an entire series of books, but it is useful to look at some examples:
- The use of “Security Certificates” to indefinitely detain non-citizen residents of Canada without charge, using secret evidence and a quasi-judicial process. Since 9-11, five Muslim men have been arrested and detained for years without charges and proper judicial process. Adil Charkaoui, Hassan Almrei, Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohamed Harkat and Mohammad Zeki Mahjou have decades of imprisonment and harassment inflicted between them, but not one of them has been convicted of any crime.
- In August of 2014, 23 men were arrested in Toronto. The RCMP carried out these and several other raids in conjunction with the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). It was announced that they had uncovered an Al Qaeda “sleeper cell.” All 24 men were Muslim, 23 were from Pakistan, and they had all at one time attended the same business school. All allegations of terrorism against the detainees were dropped within two weeks of the arrests, yet the detainees spent two to five months in a maximum security prison outside Toronto. Some of the evidence used to justify and hype the arrests included an “airplane schematic” found on the wall of one of their apartments, which was actually a poster of an airplane given to one of the arrested by his father, a baggage handler!
- The BC Civil Liberties Association is currently suing the Canadian government for allowing the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to “read Canadians’ emails and text messages, and listen to Canadians’ phone calls, whenever a Canadian is communicating with a person outside Canada. CSEC also operates under a secret ministerial directive that allows it to collect and analyze the metadata information that is automatically produced each and every time a Canadian uses a mobile phone or accesses the internet.
There is no court or committee that monitors the CSEC’s interception of these private communications and metadata information, and there is no judicial oversight of its sweeping powers. CSEC’s operations are shrouded in secrecy.”
- In 2012, the government also shut down the office of the CSIS inspector general, which provided active oversight over the agency. Since then, after-the-fact review is provided by a part-time Security Intelligence Review Committee.
Trying to Push the Campaign Further
So Bill C-51 is part of an ongoing effort. In this case the government is going so far, even its usual major media allies are concerned.
The Canadian Press noted, “The bill would give government agencies such as the CSIS vast new powers. But it would provide no new independent oversight.”
A Globe and Mail Editorial asks, “Why does the bill do so much more than fight terrorism? One part of Bill C-51 creates a new definition of an 'activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada' that includes 'terrorism,' 'interference with critical infrastructure' and ‘interference with the capability of the Government in relation to ... the economic or financial stability of Canada.'”
Even the conservative newspaper National Post published a highly critical editorial saying, “But Canadians have been given precious little information on which to decide whether the threat justifies the measures contained in Bill C-51. This is especially true in the case of C-51’s prohibitions on ‘advocating’ and ‘promoting’ terrorism — terms that, worryingly, are not defined in the bill.”
Unfortunately the Conservative Party promoted Bill has received little opposition in Parliament. The Liberal Party has criticized the lack of oversight, but said it will support the Bill. The New Democratic Party (NDP), despite all the bill being an obvious attack on poor and working people, has not even announced its official position yet! How is it that the National Post has a more progressive position on Bill C-51 than the Canada's “progressive” political party the NDP?
The Narrative Unravels
“As you are aware, Madame Chancellor, one of the jihadist monster’s tentacles reached as far as our own Parliament.” - Prime Minister Stephen Harper talking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, February 9, 2015
Jihadist monster tentacles! It sounds laughable, but the consequences are not. The Canadian government is attacking Muslims, immigrants and refugees, and also creating more space to criminalize dissenting views. There is another important element as well: the effort to create divisions between white “Canadian” workers and non-white, immigrant and refugee workers in an overall effort to drive down wages.
Non-white people living in Canada have grown from less than 5% of the population in 1980, to 16.2% in 2006, and it is estimated the number will be 32% by 2030. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), these workers make less than 82 cents for every dollar a white worker makes. Non-white women make only 55.6 cents for every dollar made by white male workers.
Also, as we have previously reported in Fire This Time, the Canadian government also changed the Temporary Foreign Worker Act to allow employers to pay higher skilled migrant workers 15% less than prevailing wage rates, and employers are also able to accelerate application for temporary foreign workers, reducing the time from 12-14 weeks to 10 days. There are now more than 300,000 Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada, triple the number from a decade ago.
This is used to try and create a climate of racism and division which is beneficial to the Canadian government and their business friends as they work to push down wages for everyone, especially higher paid workers, to maximize profits and survive the current global economic crisis.
Stop the War at Home and Abroad!
“Together, we will remain vigilant against those at home or abroad who wish to harm us.”
- Stephen Harper, October 22, 2014
These were part of Stephen Harper's statement following the terrorist attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa which left one man dead. The Canadian government instantly went on the offensive with one result being the introduction of Bill C-51. However, one can both condemn the Ottawa attack, and also the policies of the government of Canada, which have led to tens of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan and beyond, as well as painting a bleak picture for life at home as well. What “together” is the Prime Minister referring to when he has so blatantly attacked poor and working people in Canada and around the world? Bill C-51 has nothing to do with “fighting terrorism” or “jihadist monster tentacles” and everything to do with limiting our rights, silencing dissent and creating divisions. The real “together” is unity between all poor and working people regardless of race, sex, or religion, and it is crucial to defending our lives and livelihoods, at home and abroad, against the attacks of the Canadian government.
Scrap Bill C-51!
Stop Attacks on Poor and Working People at Home and Abroad!
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